The couple now at the helm of community-owned gem The Garibaldi in Bourne End have got something of a magic touch when it comes to taking pub food to new heights.

And after transforming their first venture, the Jolly Cricketers in Seer Green, into an award-winning, heavyweight all-rounder of a country gastropub, they look to be repeating the feat in Bourne End with a winning menu bursting with ideas and potential.

As everyone knows, the making of a good ‘food pub’ is not just as simple as parachuting in a new chef, tarting up the menu with fancy adjectives and doubling the prices.

Amanda Baker and Chris Lillitou knew it too, and carefully developed the Cricketers from a doomed-to-close local into a warm, welcoming, everyman experience serving top quality dishes to boot.

After all, running a modern day pub is as much about serving the community as it is about serving starters.

And that’s what the owners of the Garibaldi – the villagers who took a stand to buy the place when it was threatened with closure – have done well to recognise in choosing their new landlord and lady.

Alongside chef Ben Haywood, they have transformed the menu into a sophisticated, inventive selection with quality and refinement at its heart.

But yet the first thing my wife Tori and I noticed when we walked in to this delightful village boozer was the board showing the weekly special, the £8 Monday pie night, giving a little something back to the regulars who support this place seven days a week.

That, and the crackling fire, rousing chatter from the post six nations afternoon locals and Marlow’s Rebellion beer on tap.

Something for everyone, despite the clear ambition to raise the pub’s game and elevate it alongside the best this fecund foodie area has to offer.

Sitting next to the open fire – newly reintroduced, and sadly lost in so many country pubs these days – the menu makes for salivating viewing. I couldn’t see beyond a rabbit and pork terrine with hazelnuts, piccalilli and sourdough toast, with Tori plumping for the gin and coriander cured salmon with lemon and horseradish cream.

The terrine was exemplary, beautiful and delicate with the hazelnuts setting off the flavour of the soft rabbit and a sharp piccalilli cutting across the lot.

And the salmon sang, thanks to the hot citrus tang and a distinctly boozy undertone bringing the soft fish to life.

Uncharacteristic for a pub menu, yet totally welcome, was the strictly limited, when-it’s-gone-it’s-gone chef’s specials board featuring Wooburn pheasant cooked two ways.

The tender game meat, topped with an astounding gravy, was served alongside an indulgent and terrifically meaty pheasant leg croquette and sat on an earthy carrot and chestnut puree.

A fine use of the bird, carried off with skill and precision.

Tori’s sea bass came with zingy crab cakes and a caper and lemon dressing. And while as a complete dish it could be considered unremarkable, the fish was cooked to perfection and stood out on its own merits.

Dessert had a waft of the Masterchef about it, with an oozy, banana cake on a chocolate soil, laced with popping candy which was soft and crunchy in all the right places.

And Tori’s apple tart was a sophisticated affair, striking the right note between tradition and innovation that seems to sum up the Garibaldi’s attitude to pub fare.

For those looking for a more old-school plate of food, the bar menu offers up classics like burgers and a scotch egg, with luxurious extra touches befitting of the management’s obvious ambition.

With mains on the a la carte menu coming in at around £15, the value isn’t half bad either, but fans of pub cuisine from yesteryear may be slightly disappointed not to find a range of more basic, everyday pub grub, besides the weekly pie special. But I’m trying hard to find faults here.

After all, the Garibaldi aims high, and while its new direction is in its infancy, there is a hell of a lot to love here. Make no mistake, this is a prober pub, despite the fancy food on offer.

In this day and age, a pub has to serve its community in different ways – and The Garibaldi does just that, in spades.

Rating - Four stars

- The Garibaldi, Hedsor Road, Bourne End, SL8 5EE. Telephone: 01628 522092.